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'Cake culture' putting office workers' health at risk, warns dental leader

24 Jun 2016

Workplace 'cake culture' is fuelling the current obesity epidemic and contributing to poor dental health, a dental leader will warn tonight. Speaking at an annual dinner of dentists in London, Professor Nigel Hunt will say that for many people, the workplace is now the main place they will eat sugar. But he will guide against a nanny state approach and suggest a culture change is needed to help workers resist sweet treats in the office.

Professor Hunt, who is Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, is particularly concerned that excessive consumption of sugary treats such as cakes, sweets and biscuits is contributing to tooth decay in adults. There were 64,984 [1] adults treated in hospital for tooth decay in 2014-2015. He will warn:

“Managers want to reward staff for their efforts, colleagues want to celebrate special occasions, and workers want to bring back a gift from their holidays. But for many people the workplace is now the primary site of their sugar intake and is contributing to the current obesity epidemic and poor oral health.”

The speech will take place at the Faculty of Dental Surgery’s annual dinner for many of the country’s top dentists and other guests. Those in attendance will include the Lord Mayor and the Chief Dental Officer for England, Sara Hurley. Professor Hunt will draw attention to a “health risk at work” that is not often given much consideration. He will say:

“It is particularly dangerous that this is lying around the office all day for as we know, sugar has a particularly negative effect if it’s eaten outside of meal time.

Dentists recommend cutting down on sugary and starchy food and drinks, particularly between meals, as the bacteria in plaque feed on these carbohydrates and produce acid which causes tooth decay.

He adds: “Cake culture also poses difficulties for those who are trying their hardest to lose weight or become healthier – how many of us have begun such diets only to cave into the temptation of the doughnuts, cookies or the triple chocolate biscuits?”

However, Professor Hunt will reject a ‘nanny state’ approach saying instead people need to be more careful about how much and what they choose to buy:

“I’m not saying we need to ban such treats. But we do need a change in culture. When people are going out to the shops and buying cake and sweets they should at least consider buying smaller quantities and making them available only with lunch meals.

“Ideally office workers should consider other alternatives altogether like fruit platters, nuts, or cheese. Responsible employers should take a lead and avoid such snacks in meetings.”

Earlier this year, the FDS welcomed the introduction of a sugar levy on soft drinks in the Chancellor’s Budget announcement, saying:

“A levy that could decrease the amount of sugar children are consuming is therefore a massive step in the right direction towards tackling poor dental health and obesity. We now urge the government to investigate how this sugar levy could be applied more widely than just soft drinks."


Notes to editors

The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England is committed to enabling dentists and specialists to provide patients with the highest possible standards of practice and care.

A copy of the Faculty of Dental Surgery’s report ‘The state of children’s oral health in England’ can be accessed here
A copy of the Faculty of Dental Surgery’s ‘Actions for the government to improve oral health’ can be accessed here

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

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